THE Shamrock Rovers duo of Michael O'Neill and Jim Magilton have emerged as early favourites to succeed Nigel Worthington as Northern Ireland manager.
The under-fire Worthington revealed yesterday, ahead of the North's final qualifier against Italy tonight, that he was stepping down as boss. Iain Dowie and Lawrie Sanchez have already expressed an interest but the IFA could turn to one of the Rovers pair and one bookmakers have already made Magilton - currently working as assistant boss with Rovers - as favourite.
Brian Kerr, who has family connections to the North, could also be in contention if he decides to leave the Faroe Islands.
O'Neill is hot property afterleading Rovers to the group stages of the Europa League this season and the vacancy at the IFA will add a twist to contract negotiations with the Hoops, as O'Neill is out of contract at the end of this season.
Former Northern Ireland captain Alan McDonald has already touted ex-QPR and Ipswich manager Magilton for the job.
"Some people are talking about Michael O'Neill but I think Michael would be silly to take it," said McDonald. "I'd be very surprised if he left Shamrock Rovers. I think Iain Dowie and Jim Magilton are worth considering."
Fletcher is still wary of Torres
Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher does not buy into the perception that Spain's star striker Fernando Torres is struggling for form, ahead of tonight's crunch Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante. The Chelsea frontman was substituted after an hour of Friday's 2-0 win over Czech Republic in Prague. However, coach Vicente del Bosque said afterwards that he saw Torres "in good form with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to be part of our team", and looks set to keep him in against the Scots, who need a win to guarantee a play-off spot.
Like the Spain boss, Fletcher remains impressed by Torres.
"I think his performances have been good since the start of the season," said the Manchester United midfielder. "If you look at his overall performance he has looked hungry, dangerous and lively.
"Maybe he is a little too keen. I think his sending-off (for Chelsea against Swansea) was down to his sheer determination to do well and show people that he cares."
Saints win Leinster Cup
ST PATRICK'S Athletic claimed the Leinster Senior Cup after beating Bohemians 2-0 in the final at Dalymount Park last night, with goals from Paul Crowley and David McMillan.